Croatian sculptor and architect
Ivan Meštrović was in many ways Croatia’s greatest sculptor, yet it is a mystery how a man of his importance now lies almost forgotten by the world. He was at one point among the most famous people in the world, he held a one-man exhibit in the Metropolitan Museum during his lifetime and he was paid 100.000$ by the American government for merely two statues in the 1920s. Obviously, he was an incredible artist, but apart from the physical appeal of his work, understanding his background adds to the whole experience.
Learn the story of the artist
His personal life, in particular tragedies revolving around him losing many members of his family, has left an undeniable mark on his work. There are stories of the artist’s mind embedded in every statue, yet Meštrović’s work allows for a lot of individual interpretation. Many of his works are monumental and impressive, yet they inspire those who gaze upon them to create ideas of their own and provide food for thought as well as great discussion topics. If there is one gallery that you should visit while in Split, it is the gallery of Ivan Meštrović. It was initially designed as a summer home, but was later conveniently redesigned into a gallery, which hosts some of his most popular works in bronze, marble, plaster and wood.
Learn the story of the artist who shaped contemporary Yugoslavian art, through the gallery, which consists of the outer porch, and 10 small rooms, each hosting an average of 5 exhibits, yet to see his entire opus one would have to spend quite some time travelling through the various former Yugoslav countries and exploring countless cities, as Meštrović’s work is present in many of the more popular towns, landscapes, villages and cities of ex-Yugoslavia.
For simplicity’s purpose, it will suffice to start your lecture at the Gallery and learn how to recognise Meštrović’s style, and from that point onward you will be able to identify Meštrović’s work, wherever you may encounter it. Additionally, his gallery is settled in the most peaceful part of town, overlooking the beaches, the crystal clear sea and several Dalmatian islands. Included in the ticket is the entrance to the Kaštelet, a small 16th century castle, that was initially used as a quarantine area, but was later abandoned, bought by Meštrović and finally used as a small chapel and gallery. This little gem offers a splendid view of the coastline from the southern section, a monumental statue of the writer of the Apocalypse and lastly, the 24-relief exhibit of the life of Christ, carved in wood over a course of almost 40 years.